Group Gets Leave to Sue Federal Ministry of Finance over Statutory Transfers



okonjo-iweala new(Press Release) A Federal High Court in Abuja has granted the Stop Impunity in Nigeria (S.I.N) campaign leave to sue the Federal Ministry of Finance over its refusal to disclose the statutory transfers made to some Federal public institutions under the 2013 Appropriation Act.
Justice Abdul Kafarati granted leave in a suit filed by the campaign, represented by one of its members, the Center for Social Justice (CSJ), seeking an order of mandamus to compel the Ministry to give it details of the statutory transfers in the 2013 Appropriation Act, particularly the details of the transfers to the National Judicial Council (NJC), Niger-Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the Universal Basic Education (UBE), the National Assembly, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
In the suit filed on its behalf by Mr. Kelechi Amaliri, CSJ is also seeking a declaration that:
• Denying it access to the details of the statutory transfers in the 2013 Appropriation Act by the Federal Ministry of Finance without explanation constitutes an infringement of its right guaranteed and protected by section 1(1) of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011.
• The continued refusal of the Federal Ministry of Finance to grant it access to the details of statutory transfer in the 2013 Appropriation Act despite its demand violates Section 4 of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011.
• The continued refusal of the Federal Ministry of Finance to grant it access to the details of the statutory transfers in the 2013 Appropriation Act without explanation constitutes an infringement of its right guaranteed and protected by Section 48 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007.
CSJ is also asking for an order directing the Ministry to pay it general damages of N500,000 for the infringement of its right of access to information.
Stating the grounds upon which the suit was filed, CSJ contended that:
• Section 4 of the FOI Act sets a time limit of seven days for public institutions to accede to requests for information while Section 20 prescribes that applications for judicial review should be filed within 30 days after the public institution denies or is deemed to have denied the application, or within such time as the Court may either before or after the expiration of the 30 days fix or allow.
• Section 1 of the FOI Act entitles all Nigerians to a right of access to records in the custody or possession of any public official, agency or institution howsoever described and grants a right of access to the courts for the enforcement of this right and that an applicant under the Act need not demonstrate any specific interest in the information being applied for.
• Section 48 (1) of the Fiscal Responsibility Act provides that the Federal Government shall ensure that its fiscal and financial affairs are conducted in a transparent manner and accordingly ensure full and timely disclosure and wide publication of all transactions and decisions involving public revenues and expenditures and their implications for its finances.
• Section 51 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act clothes every person with a legal capacity to enforce the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act by obtaining prerogative or other remedies at the Federal High Court, without having to show any special interest.
• The Minister of finance is the person charged by section 13 of the Finance (Control and Management) Act to prepare in each financial year, estimates of the revenues and expenditures of the Federation for the following financial year, which shall be presented to the President for approval and thereafter laid before each House of the National Assembly in accordance with the Constitution.
• The CSJ, by a letter dated April 5, 2013 and received in the Ministry on the same date, applied to the Ministry to make available to it details of statutory transfers in the 2013 Appropriation Act.
• The time allowed by law for the Ministry to provide to CSJ with details of the statutory transfers in the 2013 Appropriation Act has elapsed.
• The Ministry has a legal obligation to provide the information requested by the CSJ or alternatively, state reasons why the information cannot be provided.
• The Ministry has violated CSJ’s right of access to information and the CSJ is therefore seeking the protection of the court to vindicate its right.
• In accordance with the maxim that where there is a right, there must be a remedy, damages should flow from the violation of its rights.
Justice Kafarati has adjourned the case to July 11, 2013 for hearing of the substantive suit.

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